8 Types of Olive Oil – All you should know
The olive oil is the juice obtained by pressing the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea), by mechanical processes (pressing the olives), or other physical processes (washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration), at controlled temperature.
This natural product is one of the symbols of our country’s gastronomic tradition and an authentic icon of the Mediterranean diet. To protect its quality, each batch of oil produced and sold in Europe must comply with strict parameters established by the European Community. These parameters translate into a commercial classification of olive oils, which will help you better understand the labels and guide you more consciously in choosing which oil to put on the table.
The European Community classifies olive oil according to three elements:
- the type of extraction used to obtain the oil,
- its composition, the percentage of free acidity (a parameter measured through chemical analysis),
- organoleptic analysis
The classification of the Olive Oil
We can distinguish 8 different kinds of olive oil. Let’s classify them and analyze them!
- Virgin olive oil
- Extravirgin olive oil
- Lampante olive oil
- Refined olive oil
- Unrefined pomace oil
- Refined pomace oil
- Olive pomace oil
1) The Virgin Olive Oils
This is how the oil obtained by pressing the olives using exclusively mechanical processes is defined in conditions that prevent any alteration. What does it mean, in simple words? To be classified as such, this oil must not undergo any treatment in addition to washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration. In turn, virgin olive oils are classified according to their free acidity: it is a value expressed as a percentage of oleic acid, the type of fatty acid prevalent in olive oil.
The increase in free acidity (which can occur both in the olive and in the oil) determines a series of modifications that lead to the formation of components, causing a deterioration of the oil’s organoleptic characteristics.
In a few words, the lower the free acidity of virgin oil, the higher its quality.
Here is the product classification of virgin olive oils:
2) EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
It is a virgin olive oil with superior organoleptic characteristics, free from defects, with free acidity, expressed in oleic acid, which does not exceed 0.8 grams per 100 g (≤ 0.8%). Extra virgin olive oil (or EVO oil) is the most natural product that can be obtained, a real olive juice. Oil is defined as an extra virgin when:
It is obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means – its chemical and physical analyzes satisfy a long series of parameters required by EU regulations, for example, acidity, which must be less than 0.8%, its organoleptic examination (carried out by a group of professional tasters gathered in a Panel Test) reveals that it has no defects and that it has a fruity presence. The oil’s fruitiness is that set of olfactory and gustatory sensations that recalls the scent and taste of the olive!
Extra virgin olive oil is often cold extracted, i.e., at a temperature below 27°. If, on the other hand, an oil presents defects to the taste and its chemical parameters are not satisfactory, even if it is oil produced in an oil mill and obtained only through mechanical processes, it cannot be classified as extra virgin oil. Still, it is classified as virgin or as lampante.
3) VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Virgin olive oil is produced like extra virgin olive oil through mechanical processes. Still, it does not fully satisfy those analytical and organoleptic parameters such that it can be included among extra virgin olive oils. Virgin olive oil is defined as a product with barely noticeable defects, whose acidity expressed in oleic acid cannot exceed 2g per 100g.
4) LAMPANTE OLIVE OIL
Virgin olive oil not for retail sale, characterized by organoleptic defects and high free acidity, which, expressed in oleic acid, is greater than 2 grams per 100 g (> 2.0%).
The “virgin lampante” oils are so called because, in the past, they were used to power oil lamps. This oil contains many natural components that are precious to our health (essential acids, vitamins, and anti-oxidant agents).
This usually happens to add a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
5) Refined Olive Oil
Refined or rectified olive oil is obtained by refining lampante or virgin olive oil.
The refining consists of reducing the high acidity of the oil using soda, discoloration using vegetable earth and charcoal, and eliminating any odor. The result is an oil with a free acidity, expressed in oleic acid, not exceeding 0.30 g per 100 g.
Finally, olive oil is obtained by blending the refined oil with a variable quantity of extra virgin olive oil.
Unlike extra virgin olive oil, Olive oil has a lighter color and a more delicate taste. Therefore, you can use it for cooking or frying.
6) Unrefined pomace oil
The pomace is the paste that remains after the first pressing of virgin and extra virgin olive oil. It is composed of olives’ skins, pulp, and pits.
However, this waste material is still rich in oil which can be extracted by solvent treatment or by physical processes. The result is crude pomace oil which must be refined to become edible.
7) Refined pomace oil
Refined pomace olive oil is obtained from the refining process of crude pomace oil, which reduces the oil’s acidity and eliminates oxidized substances. The oil obtained from refining crude olive pomace oil has an acidity expressed in oleic acid, not exceeding 0.30 g per 100 g.
8) Olive pomace oil
By blending refined pomace oil with virgin or extra virgin olive oil, olive pomace oil is obtained, which has an acidity expressed in oleic acid, not exceeding 1 g per 100 g.
Pomace oil can be found in the supermarket at a much lower price than virgin and extra virgin olive oil. This oil is mainly used in industrial, cosmetic, biomass, and biofuel production in the energy sector.